Athlete's foot (tinea pedis) is a fungal infection that usually begins between the toes. It occurs when a fungus on the foot grows and multiplies in a warm, moist environment, such as when feet have become very sweaty confined within tight-fitting shoes or aren't dried well after swimming or bathing.
The signs and symptoms of athlete's foot can vary. In some, skin becomes scaly, cracked and peeling typically beginning between the toes. Others may have redness, scaling and blisters on the soles and sides of the feet.
The same fungus can also cause toenail infection with scaling, crumbling and thickening of the nails. Toenail fungus can be stubborn and requires extensive treatment.
See Fungal Nail Infections to learn more.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Not all foot rashes are athlete's foot, so before treating yourself with over-the-counter preparations, you should see your dermatologist for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
Your dermatologist may prescribe one of the following treatments based on the severity of your athlete's foot:
Prescription-strength topical anti-fungal creams can relieve symptoms fairly quickly in most cases.
Foot soaks before applying an anti-fungal cream may be prescribed for more severe cases.
Anti-fungal pills may be prescribed for athlete's foot that is very severe or hasn't responded well to other treatments.
It is important to continue use of the prescribed anti-fungal medications (creams or pills) for as long as your dermatologist recommends. Skin may start to look and feel better before the infection is completely cleared. Stopping treatment early may cause the infection to return.
To help prevent athlete's foot, follow these simple rules:
Wash your feet daily and dry thoroughly especially between your toes.
Avoid tight footwear, especially in summer. Sandals are best in warm weather.
Wear cotton socks and change them daily or sooner if they become damp. Avoid socks made of synthetic materials.
If possible, go barefoot at home.
Sprinkle anti-fungal powder into your shoes when it's warm.